Before she was mourning the state of today’s music, Joni Mitchell was using the power of song to dole out wisdom. In one of her biggest hits, “Big Yellow Taxi,” she offers: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
That’s exactly how many women feel in their 20s — and it’s because so many women who have aged out of the bracket won’t let you forget that it’s the best time of your life. Your 20s, they say, are your prime years — you just don’t know it yet. “Your beauty will fade,” they warn. “Your body won’t work like it used to once you turn 30,” they cry. “Start using anti-wrinkle creams.” A dinner with your aunts can feel like a whirlwind of cautionary tales.
As a result, we’re all under insane amounts of pressure to carpe diems and dodge FOMO around every corner. And, we’d be lying if we said that pressure wasn’t self-imposed, too.
While we’re still riding the New Year’s wave, it seems like a good time to freshen up our perspective. Namely, we need to re-evaluate the way we talk to and about ourselves, the way we set goals for our personal and professional lives, and the way we measure beauty. Ahead, 23 celebs who’ll put your 20s in perspective for you. In other words: Relax.
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Meryl Streep’s opinion of her 20s is simple but poignant: “I’m never so sure as I was in my mid-20s.”
“If I could have talked to my 19- or 20-year-old self, I would have said, ‘You’re going to be fine. It ain’t that serious!'” Queen Latifah told More. In other words, chill out.
Regarding that big 30 time stamp you’ve set in your brain: Forget it. “I spent my 20s focusing on my career. I dated a lot and it was fun, but I wasn’t ready to fully commit myself to another person,” Katie Couric told Glamour. “It was my selfish decade. Even still, I didn’t make the deadline I had set for myself of becoming a network correspondent by 30.”
Anna Gunn wants to make sure you’re not spending your 20s needlessly stressing out. “When I was in my 20s and 30s, I spent so much time worrying: the next job, the next review, the next blog,” the Breaking Bad actress told the New York Post. “It really was wasted time. I haven’t stopped worrying, but now I have the ability to say, ‘I’m going to enjoy the time that I have working and that I have with my kids and my family and my friends.’”
Lena Dunham tackles one of the major question marks of this delicate age: romance. “Positive, healthy, loving relationships in your 20s…I don’t know if anyone would disagree with it: I think they’re the exception, not the norm. People are either playing house really aggressively because they’re scared of what an uncertain time it is, or they’re avoiding commitment altogether,” she told GQ.
“When I was in my 20s, I was a lost soul. Your 20s are about finding your soul,” Oprah says in one of her online diary entries.
“The 20s? My title for that period of my life would be, ‘It was the Worst of Times, it was the Worst of Times…’ Did I mention it was the hardest time of my life?” Lisa Kudrow told TV Guide.
“I think we should stop asking people in their 20s what they ‘want to do’ and start asking them what they don’t want to do,” Amy Poehler writes in her new memoir, Yes Please.
“It made me want to look at myself and see what behavior I want to bring into my 30s, and what I want to leave in my 20s…I’m such a people-pleaser and from an unstable background. I translate too many things into guilt. I’m ready to let go of that,” Drew Barrymore told People on her 30th birthday.
Before you freak out about your dwindling youth, keep in mind that, given the chance, you probably wouldn’t go back to being a college-aged woman again. Like Zoe Saldana told Marie Claire, “I love aging. Why would I want to be 21 for the rest of my life?”
Amy Adams says turning 30 was a “big deal” for her. “It was the age where I reevaluated everything — how I approached life and how I thought about myself,” she told People in 2009. “When I look at my 20s, or when I look at any period in my life, I think about how much time I’ve wasted trying to find the right man. It’s like, if I could go back and do it again, I would have taken guitar lessons or something. I would have put my energy into something that paid off in the end, instead of trying to improve myself for men. Oh, the time and the energy, trying to impress somebody who was actually a big jerk.”
Arianna Huffington has a lot of great advice. But, if you’re in your 20s, her views on how we think of ourselves feel most relevant. “How we talk to ourselves matters. Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves. I call this voice the obnoxious roommate living in our head. It feeds on putting us down and exploiting and magnifying our insecurities and doubts. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. It would shock us to hear it played back,” she told Marie Claire.
American Sniper star Sienna Miller doesn’t want you to freak out about someone seeing your college Facebook photos. “I lived my 20s in a very public manner, and if anyone’s 20s are documented it’s not always going to be pretty,” she told The Independent.
This is gonna make you want to hire a comedian as a life coach: “You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling [unsure] and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.” — Louis C.K., Untitled
“Your 20s were for ‘ducking up,’ as my auto-correct would say, and learning from those mistakes,” Olivia Wilde told Glamour. “Now you get to live with that knowledge under your belt…I’m hitting a major milestone: 30, or as I like to call it, the Cut the Bullsh*t and Go Be Awesome stage.”
Reese Witherspoon’s got some love advice for you. “I thought I knew everything about love and relationships in my 20s. The ignorance of youth is bliss. As you get older, you start to realize that you don’t really know anything and life is a great traveling journey. Life is unexpected…you just never know what’s going to happen.”
If you’re feeling like you’re almost 30 and may never find “the one,” fear not. Take Kristen Bell’s sage-like advice. “Every woman in her late 20s goes through a period where she just doesn’t believe love is out there anymore, but it is. And I think the minute you stop looking for it is when it comes for you,” she told Cosmo.
It’s sometimes hard to listen to a supermodel talk about her body. But, Cindy Crawford’s thoughts on how your body changes are comforting. “I’m actually happier with my body now…because the body I have now is the body I’ve worked for. I have a better relationship with it. From a purely aesthetic point of view, my body was better when I was 22, 23. But I didn’t enjoy it. I was too busy comparing it to everyone else’s,” she told AskMen.
“When I was in my early 20s, being called sexy was not part of my experience in any way,” Tina Fey told The Believer mag. “There’s such a small window of time when people want to write any articles about you. If you’re a woman and they say anything complimentary about your appearance, well, I’m not going to complain. I fully intend to keep all of these magazines in the attic and bring them out for my daughter someday. ‘You see? There was a time when people thought your mother was a sexy b*tch.’”
Keira Knightley isn’t worried about turning 30 because her early 20s weren’t so fun. She told Glamour that after 25 things got better. “Maybe you stop caring as much about where you should be going and what other people think, which is all the sh*t that makes you very unhappy early on.”
Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson says your 20s are “that time when you’re really, really trying to figure sh*t out… It’s just about trying and creating and putting stuff out in whatever form or medium that you do, and not being precious with it. And in that you’ll find your voice.”
Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell is basically an expert on being single in your 20s. “There are worse things than being 35, single, and female in New York. Like: Being 25, single, and female in New York. It’s a rite of passage few women would want to repeat. It’s about sleeping with the wrong men, wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong roommate, saying the wrong thing, being ignored, getting fired, not being taken seriously, and generally being treated like sh*t. But it’s necessary,” she writes. Go ahead and stick that on your cubicle wall.
In closing, we leave you with Susan Sarandon’s perfect, perfect quote. She told V magazine, “I wouldn’t want to be 20 now. I know so much more, and I’m much more comfortable in my skin, saggy as it is… When I hear young girls complaining about superficial things… You’re at the peak of your physical beauty right now! Just enjoy it and stop worrying about your thighs being too big… If you’re upset with how you look at 25, life’s going to be tough.”